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Book review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

So far, February has been a month of blockbusters: first The Handmaid’s Tale, then Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and now The Testaments.

And the best bit is that I really enjoyed them all. Harry Potter was just as much fun as I hoped it would be – gripping and hugely enjoyable from the first page.

I really loved The Handmaid’s Tale – it was unbelievably clever and I only enhanced by the tv series.

The Testaments was very readable, if a lighter weight follow up to its classic predecessor. There were fewer points at which I was surprised by the language or an idea, as in The Handmaid’s Tale, but the book was still an impressive feat.

The Testaments is the story of three women who will be identifiable to anyone who has been watching the tv series: baby Nicole (the baby Offred delivered as a handmaid), Daisy (Offred’s first child) and Aunt Lydia, a woman in charge of the women’s sphere in Gilead.

The most fascinating narrator was Aunt Lydia, who is portrayed in both The Handmaid’s Tale book and tv show as being brutal in the way she controls the handmaids to uphold the law. This novel explores how she came to behave in this way, and gives some answers as to why. While she isn’t exactly absolved of her sins, and does not expect to be, it is possible to feel sympathy for her position. She takes power in the places she can find it, in a society where power is extremely difficult for women to hold in any way.

Atwood also writes of the difficult position the young girls find themselves in, which was not tackled in on the screen. I was interested to read about how these girls progressed from childhood to becoming wives, and the pain and trauma of that transition.

While violence is alluded to throughout the novel, it was never explicit, which I liked. It meant the novel wasn’t an endurance test, and the reader was aware of violence without being bombarded by it. Atwood has a wonderful way of letting the reader understand without explicitly writing about events.

I was worried at some points, how Atwood was going to pull the ending together, but I liked the way it finally did.

I was glad that I got to read both books in close succession as it was nice to have some questions about what happened next in Giles’s answered so quickly. Other readers had to wait more than 20 years.

All up, I enjoyed The Testaments, even though it was lacking some of the richness of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Have you read The Testaments? What did you think?

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